The Tampa Bay Partnership recently found that households spend 54 cents of every dollar on housing and transportation; a new study will further evaluate the issue and help set realistic goals.
JP Morgan Chase committed $250,000 for the partnership to measure the region’s available housing stock and identify the number of new homes needed to keep pace with unprecedented growth. The investment will fund five years of affordable housing research throughout Pinellas, Pasco and Hillsborough Counties.
Bemetra Simmons, president of the partnership, said the data would inform myriad public and private stakeholders throughout Tampa Bay. She told the Catalyst that a “perfect world” scenario includes researchers finding the number of housing units needed are already in development.
“Realistically, I think the study will be a success if we can wrap our arms around the size of the gap and have some hard numbers to track our progress,” Simmons said. “And then allow us to be able to measure what is getting done.”
In February, the partnership released its extensive 2023 Regional Competitiveness Report. That study quantified how an influx of new residents depleted the housing supply and strained transportation systems, causing area living costs to soar by about 30%.
The partnership – in collaboration with the University of South Florida’s Muma College of Business, Community Foundation Tampa Bay and United Way Suncoast – has highlighted how the region compares to other metropolitan areas for the past six years. Simmons said her organization’s experience and relationships make it uniquely suited to study the affordable housing crisis.
She said the Competitiveness Report’s findings underscored the need for the housing study. Simmons explained that median home prices are approaching $400,000 in Tampa Bay, while the average resident earns about $57,000 annually.
“The other thing that drove us … is all the conversations I’ve been having with local elected officials, business leaders and nonprofit leaders around the region,” she added. “We’ve got our work cut out for us.”
Simmons said JP Morgan has long supported finding solutions to issues caused by a lack of affordable housing. She also noted the banking conglomerate’s vested interest in sustaining a significant local workforce.
A JP Morgan spokesperson said the company employs nearly 6,000 people and operates 60 branches throughout the region. She called Tampa a “strategic location” as it is home to the firm’s global payments center – which processes $10 trillion daily.
“Affordable housing is a prominent issue in communities throughout Florida, especially in Tampa Bay, which has experienced exceptional growth in recent years,” said Maria Escorcia, southeast regional executive director of global philanthropy, in a prepared statement. “We believe strongly in approaches that not only seek to measure the needs of residents today, but that encompass planning for the future.”
Simmons said soaring costs are pushing employees away from Tampa Bay’s urban core. She believes employers have taken notice.
In addition, Pinellas, Pasco and Hillsborough County officials are discussing the formation of a regional Metropolitan Planning Organization. Simmons said transportation and housing affordability are intertwined and that the study could aid those efforts.
She reiterated that 54% of local incomes go towards those two expenses. Simmons called that significant “because you haven’t even bought a bite of food yet.”
The five-year study will follow a three-pronged approach. Researchers will first define and categorize available or proposed attainable housing units.
They will then assess the number of new homes needed to sustain the region’s growth. Simmons said that will provide a realistic target.
The partnership will then present public and private stakeholders with the findings and gather feedback. Simmons expressed her gratitude for JP Morgan trusting the organization to complete the assessment, which it expects to release in August 2025.
“We’re hoping that this study will allow us to be able to determine outcomes and solutions and better ways of how we can get the private sector involved,” she added. “We’re focused on advocacy and policy work, but we also strive to connect thought leaders through regional convening.”